National Academies Press: OpenBook

Space Technology for the New Century (1998)

Chapter: 2 Study Approach

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Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
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2—
Study Approach

NASA asked the NRC to examine the nation's space technology needs for the post-2000 time period and identify high-risk, high-payoff technologies that could improve the capabilities and reduce the costs of NASA, other government, and commercial space programs. The NRC was also asked to suggest how NASA could work more effectively with private companies and universities to develop these technologies. To accomplish these ends, the NRC's Committee on Advanced Space Technology undertook a systematic process of information gathering and technology assessment.

Identifying Key Technologies

The committee took two approaches to identifying promising technologies. One was to predict civil space activities that would be conducted in the post-2005 time frame and determine the technologies that would be necessary to enable them. The other was to examine a range of potential space technologies and try to determine whether they would enable new space activities.

The committee gathered information about potential space activities and enabling technologies from a wide range of sources. These included past reports on space technologies by the NRC, Space Technology to Meet Future Needs (NRC, 1987) and Technology for Small Spacecraft (NRC, 1994); NASA documents, including the agency's last Integrated Technology Plan (NASA, 1991) and more recent publications, such as Mission to the Solar System: Exploration and Discovery (JPL, 1996) and the NASA Strategic Plan (NASA, 1997); and reports by other advisory groups, including Advanced Technology for America's Future in Space (SSTAC, 1992) and New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st

Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
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Page 8

Century (AFAB, 1996). The committee also made extensive outreach efforts to gather the opinions of numerous organizations in the space field.

The committee asked more than 30 organizations active in the space arena—from NASA centers to industry groups to space advocacy organizations—to prepare white papers describing: (1) the kinds of space activities the United States will need to conduct in the post-2000 time frame to be a leader in civil and commercial space; (2) new technologies that would be enabling or helpful for these activities; (3) who they believe would develop these technologies; and (4) whether they believed that the development of these technologies would benefit from long lead-time, low-level concept studies and R&T supported by NASA. The organizations that responded are listed in Appendix B. Additional information was gathered from a similar survey of the space industry conducted by the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and during visits by committee members to organizations active in the space field.

From these sources of information, the committee compiled a list of approximately 50 representative future space activities and 200 potential technologies. Appendix C contains the committee's list of representative future space activities. Appendix D contains the list of technologies grouped into categories, such as power, propulsion, and thermal control.

To narrow down the list of technologies, the committee was divided into five panels, one for each of the major areas of civil space activities expected for the post-2005 period. The five areas were:

study the galaxy and universe

study and explore the Solar System

study the Earth

provide other services to users on Earth

space operations and infrastructure

Each panel then examined the lists of promising technologies and determined whether the technologies would be enabling, helpful, or unimportant for some or all of the activities in their area. Figure 2–1 is a greatly simplified version of the matrix used by the committee in this exercise. The full matrix contained all of the technologies and activities listed in Appendices C and D and was filled in by each of the panels. A short list of potential key technologies, including the technologies ranked highest by each panel, technologies that were enabling for multiple different classes of future activities, and technologies that had been strongly and repeatedly suggested during the committee's outreach, was then prepared. This list appears in Box 2–1.

Three filters were then applied to refine the list of key technologies. The first filter eliminated technologies that were not enabling for at least some activities or were not broadly applicable. Enabling technologies were defined as those that either made feasible space activities that would otherwise be infeasible or that dramatically reduced the cost or time required to perform a space activity—by two-thirds, for example. In this way, technologies that were merely incremental

Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
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Page 9

FIGURE 2–1 Technology Assessment Matrix.

T

E

C

H

N

O

L

O

G

I

E

S

ACTIVITIES

 

Study the Galaxy and the Universe

Explore the Solar System

Study the Earth

Provide Services to Users on Earth

Space Operations and Infrastructure

Communications

         

Earth-Based Systems

         

Guidance and Control

         

Information Technologies

         

Launch

         

Materials

         

Power

         

Propulsion

         

Robotics

         

Sensors

         

Systems and Electronics

         

Structures

         

Thermal Control

         

Working in Space

       

improvements to current technologies were eliminated. The second filter eliminated technologies that are already receiving large amounts of development funding, including funding from NASA, other U.S. government agencies, and private industry. (Funding for technology development outside of the United States was not considered unless U.S. organizations were expected to be able to use the technology.) The third filter eliminated technologies that might have been very important but would not have benefited significantly from low-level, long lead-time NASA funding. All three filters were intended to create a technology development portfolio that would yield the most benefits from a small amount of NASA funding.

After these filters were applied, a short list of key technologies emerged. The list was examined to ensure that the technologies were applicable across a wide range of future space activities and not just to one kind of activity. The committee then investigated each technology in more depth to determine the particular areas that would benefit most from long lead-time development funding. Finally, draft write-ups of each technology were critiqued by experts in the relevant technical areas and revised in response to their comments. The results are presented in Chapter 3.

Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
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Page 10

Improving Nasa's Technology
Development Processes

The committee's approach to determining how NASA can work more effectively with industry and academia to develop advanced space technologies was based heavily on the committee's expertise and experience but also included significant outreach. The organizations that were asked to provide white papers on technology were also asked to suggest ways for NASA to work more effectively with other agencies, universities, and private companies on early technology R&T. Numerous responses were received and were used by the committee to develop findings and recommendations. The committee also reviewed numerous past reports that have commented on NASA technology development (CBO, 1994; NRC, 1983, NRC, 1993; NRC, 1995).

The committee also met with NASA leaders to discuss the agency's current methods of technology development, focusing on cooperative efforts with academia and industry. The committee initially met with the Associate Administrator of the Office of Space Access and Technology (OSAT) John Mansfield. After OSAT was dissolved, the committee met with NASA Associate Deputy

Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
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Administrator Michael Mott. Finally, the committee met with NASA Chief Technologist Samuel Venneri and Deputy Chief Technologist Gregory Reck, near the end of the study. The committee's findings and recommendations in this area are presented in Chapter 4.

References

AFSAB (Air Force Scientific Advisory Board). 1996. New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century. Space Technology Volume. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Air Force.

CBO (Congressional Budget Office). 1994. Reinventing NASA. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Budget Office.

PL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). 1996. Mission to the Solar System: Exploration and Discovery. Version B. September 27. Pasadena, Calif.: Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 1991. Integrated Technology Plan. Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology. Washington, D.C.: NASA.

NASA. 1997. NASA Strategic Plan. Washington, D.C.: NASA.

NRC (National Research Council). 1983. NASA's Space Research and Technology Program. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

NRC. 1987. Space Technology to Meet Future Needs. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

NRC. 1993. Improving NASA's Technology for Space Science. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

NRC. 1994. Technology for Small Spacecraft. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

NRC. 1995. Managing the Space Sciences. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

SSTAC (Space Systems and Technology Advisory Committee). 1992. Advanced Technology for America's Future in Space. Washington, D.C.: NASA.

Antimatter propulsion

Autonomous systems

Beamed power

Data compression technologies

Deployable structures

Digital systems processing

Electric propulsion

Extraction and utilization of extraterrestrial resources

Flywheels

Higher-efficiency solar power generation

Improved antennas (phased arrays, high power, high frequency)

Improved thermal control systems

Lower cost launch and transfer vehicles

Low-cost/low-power imaging sensors

Low-cost, radiation-resistant memories and electronics

Microelectromechanical systems for space

Precisely controlled space structures

Space nuclear power systems

Task-capable telerobots

Wideband, high data-rate communications over planetary distances

Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
×
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
×
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
×
Page 9
Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
×
Page 10
Suggested Citation:"2 Study Approach." National Research Council. 1998. Space Technology for the New Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6068.
×
Page 11
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